Community, Turkey, and Most Importantly… Hope

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie…

All traditional components that complete a Thanksgiving meal. But what if you couldn’t afford turkey this year? Or you didn’t have access to the ingredients? Unfortunately, that is the case for some Detroiters and it’s become one couple’s mission to provide an annual pre-Thanksgiving meal here at Crossroads of Michigan.

“It’s a good way to start not only the Christmas season but it makes you feel better when you sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving,”

Yolanda Turner said in response to why she volunteers to organize every year.

For more than the last two decades, Yolanda and her husband Charlie, have hosted this event.

Their goal, is to give the clients exactly the same Thanksgiving dinner enjoyed by many at home.

When the couple started, they had no idea how to do it, but today the group runs like a well-oiled machine. Now the event gets bigger and better each year. With over 75 volunteers and hundreds of donations supporting the pre-Thanksgiving dinner annually.

“Many of them have worked here for years with us. They know their jobs and they get to it. Before the day is through, we’ll serve 600 or 700 people,” Charlie stated.

“What are we doing today? We’re feeding the community,”

Chef Mike energetically said. He’s a volunteer kitchen manager who oversaw this year’s meal, “We wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t have the volunteer support that we have.”

Each week, Crossroads of Michigan opens its doors to organizations hosting meals.  They are responsible for providing a meal and manpower each Sunday to residents in the area. Often, it’s a corporate group or faith-based organization who volunteers. This group was friends and family of the Turner and included all ages of volunteers.

“It’s nice because not only do we have adults here, we have kids here serving,” Yolanda explained with young volunteers handing out pumpkin pie behind her. “A lot of times it’s children serving children and it gives the kids a real eye opener as to what life is really like for people other than their own neighborhood.”

There are many smiling faces checking in, receiving tickets for the meal. Once they’ve collected their dinner, they can either take it home or join other clients for a visit. Many stay and chat at the colorful turkey themed decorated tables. Among the hundreds that checked in, in just the first hour, it’s hard to tell who’s who as a community comes together through support.

“We do this because we love the community,” Chef Mike says as he walks through a room with a smile on his face shaking the hands of clients, “I hate to use the word unfortunate, but we make them fortunate through organizations coming in and providing a meal and a service for our community.”

The clients are appreciative of that too – many are thanking volunteers as they go through the lines. Some had lost their jobs, some had health issues, they all had barriers to overcome when visiting Crossroads of Michigan and return because of hope.

“The need in our community right now, even though the economy is on an upswing and going great, the need among the poorest in our community is still huge,” Yolanda explained,

“We like to say we provide a hand up and a gift of hope. I think the hope is the most important part. To know that all of our clients leave with more hope than they had coming in is a wonderful thing.”

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